The December-January edition of the Statesman’s Business Insider explores change in local nonprofits. Here’s a little bit of change at one of Idaho’s nonprofits: The Better Business Bureau serving southern Idaho went from being one of the smallest BBBs in North America to being the largest during 2016. This has been quite the year.
The BBB based in Boise joined forces with BBBs based in Spokane and DuPont, Wash. The result is a business-ethics and reputation-scoring organization that serves Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and western Wyoming.
Hopefully you’re asking, “So, what?” After living through one of the biggest mergers in the nonprofit world, I hope you find interesting application to your business and professional life from the lessons we learned.
Lesson 1: Purpose
Purpose drove the merger and drives what we do day in and day out. Purpose should be clear, easily remembered and repeated often. Purpose is inspiring and aspirational. The purpose cannot be about money. Your business doesn’t solely exist to make money, and BBB’s purpose isn’t tied to dollars. In business, money is simply a result.
Our reason to merge: Get big to act small. The vision of the merger is to have a human being representing BBB in every city of 30,000 or more in our six-state region. The merger gives us the resources to be more valuable and provide better services to businesses displaying the BBB Accredited Business seal and to make BBB’s business-reporting resources more available to the public. An important question regarding purpose: How does your purpose create a win for your customers?
Lesson 2: Eject ego
The three CEOs representing the respective BBBs worked closely on the merger from inception. It was our collective idea. The purpose was so much bigger than any one individual, and we all knew only one CEO position would survive. But it wasn’t about me. The merger was about a better organization, a better customer experience and more relevance. I did not arrive on this side of the merger as CEO (if you’re wondering, I’m now chief innovation officer). Two important questions to ask yourself regarding ego: Am I the smartest person in the room? If yes, find more people. And, is my identity tied up in a job title?
Lesson 3: Flexibility
There’s no way to know or plan for all you will experience during a major transition in your business or nonprofit. The need for excellent communication goes without saying, and constant, clear overcommunication helps people pivot, prepare for and respond to the inevitable unforeseen events. An important reminder regarding flexibility: I can’t control the circumstance, but I can control my response.
BBB serving the Northwest is growing and making a bigger impact in building a trustworthy marketplace. There are more lessons to learn, more adapting and more opportunities to seize. The thrill is in the journey.
Dale Dixon is chief innovation officer of the Better Business Bureau Northwest. 342-4649, firstname.lastname@example.org. This column is part of a special section on nonprofits in the Dec. 21, 2016-Jan. 17, 2017, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine. Click here for the e-edition (subscription required).